They say fortune favours the brave. And this proved to be just the case as we pulled into the (slightly hidden, but large) car park of Adnams’ flagship hotel, The Swan in Southwold. 

Seconds after whipping the key from the ignition, the tumultuous, ice-cold weather we’d left at home melted away into something altogether balmier. There was a debate over needing coats. Even sunglasses! Though we weren’t quite ready to get into our bikinis. 

Having the weather gods on our side put a spring in our steps. And those steps only got bouncier as we entered the hotel from the high street. Not only is The Swan drop dead gorgeous from head to toe (think pastels, pops of neon and no-expense-spared soft furnishings), but every effort has been made to envelope guests in a big metaphorical hug. 

If I were to put one word to this place it would be ‘welcoming’. Welcoming at reception, where we were offered discount cards for local stores, and spotted handy umbrellas, wellies, towels and even de-icer for guests to use. 

Welcoming en route to our room, with hotel butler Harry ushering us into the lift before lugging our cases upstairs. 

And welcoming inside our accommodation (Harry gave us a handy tour, showing us where things were and how to use them). 

Our suite, at the front of the hotel, was nothing short of magnificent, oozing magazine cover charm with its Mid-Century furniture, kooky décor (yes we DID manage to decipher the semaphore artwork on the wall), a squidgy superking bed, and vintage-style bathroom (where the water pressure in the shower is excellent). 

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The devil really is in the detail here. The hospitality tray includes a free bottle of Adnams gin. Wine, fizz and water glasses are provided. Full-sized Temple Spa toiletries (including pillow spray) await to pamper. And there are make-up towels in the bathroom (hands up if you always feel guilty schmearing your foundation onto a fluffy white flannel when you’re away). 

For goodness sake, we were even offered a turndown service which, although we were warned didn’t include chocolates, did involve towels being folded and rehung, bedding unleashed from its tight hospital corners, and lights and lamps switched on in the right combination to create the perfect setting for slumber. I can’t remember the last time I had service like this. 

After what can only be described as an ‘amazing’ afternoon tea in the hotel restaurant (one that includes ice cream cones and fish and chips), we set off to the Adnams hub behind, where the brewer and distiller hosts tours and tastings year-round. 

We were booked in for a make-your-own-gin session (£95pp), which included a tour around the eco-friendly, deliciously-scented distillery, before we got down to the nitty gritty of creating a symphony of flavour in our own bottles. 

Our knowledgeable and endlessly enthusiastic guide talked us through the business of making gin, assigning us each a cute copper still (mine was called Pamela), into which we decanted an entire bottle of Adnams’ signature, award-winning First Rate vodka. 

Having the nose of a hound (or so I’ve been told) I was in my element sniffing through a tray of more than 30 botanicals. Gin-making novices are encouraged to take their time, crushing more unusual ingredients such as fiery fragrant grains of paradise between their fingers (or teeth) before settling on their final blend. It would be easy to get carried away – thankfully your guide is there to stop you throwing in the kitchen sink. 

Into the pot everything goes, with a good half hour or so of spirit tasting while you wait for the magic to happen. Once made, the gin is bottled and labelled with whichever name you choose (please make it more inventive than the hasty decision of my surname) and you’re set back into the real world with something you can quaff in a couple of weeks. Adnams keep a record of your recipe – just in case you end up being some kind of drinks-blending genius and decide you want, nay need, more. 

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There was time for a wander around town. Southwold is a genteel, up-at-heel destination, filled with swanky fashion stores, lovely bakeries (don’t miss the incredible Saturday morning Penny Bun pop-up at The Box) and delis, beautiful gift shops, and more. It is the Louis Vuitton of the East Anglian coast. However the people are far from haughty. We had lovely chats in many of the businesses, and maybe bought a few things we didn’t really need – including the best chips ever at The Little Fish and Chip Shop - a stone’s throw from the hotel. 

We also managed a sun-drenched winter walk on the sandy beach. And a wander on the pier, where Tim Hunkin’s Under The Pier Show had tourists in stitches. 

Guiltily filled with carbs, we enjoyed a quick drink in the hotel’s informal Tap Room bar/restaurant before joining the pleasant hubbub in The Still Room – surely one of Suffolk’s most sophisticated dining spaces, chicly fashioned into a kind of French brasserie. 

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Naturally drinks are predominantly Adnams-sourced, from beer and spirits, to wines. A tangy Coastal Dream cocktail, made with their blackcurrant gin and served in a 1920s glass, was just the ticket to rouse our lazy tastebuds.  

The kitchen doses out a menu that sits firmly in the season, putting Suffolk produce proudly on the plate. Standing out beautifully was a plant-based starter so remarkably jacked up with flavour it could possibly have turned even the most ardent of carnivores. Sweet beetroot arrived daintily arranged with a bolshy smoked celeriac puree, slivers of pickled apple and celeriac, sorrel and a tart, bright horseradish vinegar emulsion. Just wow. 

Thetford & Brandon Times:

Thetford & Brandon Times:

I was also won over by buttery pink Suffolk lamb loin, paired with a boisterous, shouty braise of shoulder in a sticky glaze, with mint pesto, crispy anchovies and sprouting broccoli.  

The only room for improvement, I felt, lingered around my dessert. While the 80pc dark chocolate fondant met its assignment to collapse under the spoon, and while the cardamom ice cream was silkily gorgeous, something was missing. A big pinch of salt...or a whack of sharpness to lift all that richness. 

Full to the brim, we had a dreamy night’s sleep (thanks to heavy drapes and super soft sheets). And all that was left was to follow the scent of bacon back to the dining room for breakfast, which is all ordered a la carte for one price. 

Again, the little touches count. Pats of wrapped butter await, softened, with pots of Tiptree jam. Croissants are baked fresh and served warm. And there are some unique offerings, such as melon compressed with elderflower – a refreshing way to ease into the day. 

You can even build your own breakfast plate from the list.  

We were sad to leave The Swan, having felt so well looked after. Like a kindly aunt had wrapped her arms around us for the weekend.  

Good old Harry (he’s not old, he’s actually very very young) was waiting, coated up, in reception to take our luggage to the car. Another thoughtful touch. A masterclass in hospitality from start to finish. 

Book your stay 

A midweek stay including breakfast is from £202.50 per room paying the full amount up front, or £225 on a book now, pay at the property basis with free cancellation. Weekends are for two-night stays only. For the best rates and deals go to